At the Gathering
Serve yourself so you can choose the foods that will help you manage your side effects. You can also choose smaller portions that you feel comfortable with.
If you have a sensitive stomach, rich foods can make things worse. Choose plain foods that are baked or steamed with little added fat. Try having some turkey with cranberry sauce instead of gravy. Try rice, baked potatoes or a dinner roll as a side. Add some plain vegetables. Talk to the host before the gathering to see what will be available and consider bringing your own side dishes.
If your immune system has been weakened by your treatment, be careful about food safety, especially if the food is served family- or buffet-style. Make sure hot foods are steaming hot and cold foods are on ice. It's also a good idea to avoid high-risk foods like sushi, devilled eggs and homemade eggnog. See below for more information on food safety.
If you aren't sure how long foods have been sitting out, ask the chef or host. You can also stick to foods like cheeses (approved on the food safety handout) and crackers, chips, roasted nuts and cookies. These foods are safer bets because they can sit out longer.
For taste changes, ask the host the menu ahead of time to see if there will be foods that you can tolerate. You may want to bring a dish of your own that tastes okay for you.
- Too bland? Add sauces that provide strong flavours (like soy sauce, cranberry sauce, BBQ sauce).
- Too sweet? You can try adding a small sprinkle of salt, gravy or a savoury sauce to your food.
- Too salty? Choose foods that are more bland or sweet. Try adding sweet flavours such as a cranberry sauce.
- Metallic or bitter taste? Choose foods that are normally served cold or at room temperature, and eat with plastic utensils. Adding marinades and sauces may also be helpful.
If you are having difficulty swallowing, make sure that you choose foods that follow the recommended food textures provided to you by your registered dietitian or speech language therapist. You may want to eat prior to going to the holiday gathering. Otherwise, if you are following a minced or pureed diet, you will want to bring some of your own food to the gathering to ensure it was safely prepared. Remember to pay attention to your eating and swallowing. Avoid talking while eating to prevent distractions.
If you are not able to have foods or fluids by mouth, you may join the table to participate in the conversation and socializing. It may feel difficult to be at the table with others when you are unable to eat. If this is the case, you may want to join after the meal is over to socialize with family and friends.